UK’s most comprehensive study into domestic abuse

Coercive control and the role of technology

Domestic abuse study

LJMU and the Digital-Trust have launched the UK’s most comprehensive study into domestic abuse, investigating physical violence, coercive control and digital abuse within relationships.

The ambitious research project will gather data from women, men and teens in opposite and same-sex relationships, and will give the most comprehensive view yet of domestic abuse, looking at both the victim profiles and the type of treatment they experience. 

Importantly, for the first time it will also look at how technology is used in abusive relationships, and in the stalking and harassment that often follows an abusive relationship. Like its role in other crimes, technology enables domestic abuse.

In light of the law recognising coercive control as an offence since 29 December last year, the study will also seek to discover the most common means of control and ascertain victims’ understanding of what it is.

Dr Jennifer McLaughlin, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at LJMU, has previously conducted research focusing on the relationship between intimate partner abuse and mental health and well-being, including suicide risk.

She commented: “Last December the new law on coercive control was introduced covering finance, restriction of movement and emotional control. This research will help to identify the most prevalent forms of abuse, if there is a difference between female, male, teens or same sex victims, and whether these different forms of abuse are associated with different mental health and well-being outcomes.”

Jennifer Perry, CEO of the Digital-Trust, is one of the UK’s leading experts on digital abuse, cyber stalking and harassment.

She said: “We shouldn’t be surprised that victims don’t know they’ve been experiencing coercive control, when a law that recognises it has only recently been introduced. Victims of abuse know that what has been happening to them isn’t right but they don’t always understand that it was domestic abuse and now it’s illegal.

“The study will also be looking at digital technology. It makes us available 24/7 - our location, photos and friends are online. Does that amount of information increase obsession and physical violence or make the abuser more persistent? What is the most likely form of digital abuse and can we prevent it? This research will help us understand if our digital lives are changing the nature of domestic abuse.”

Dr McLaughlin added: “New research is vital as it not only enables better care for victims, it can also lead to better support within the criminal justice system and improve safeguards. Ideally, it would be useful to educate and influence social media, apps or mobiles providers so they can help us to reduce the risk of harm.”

As part of the study, victims of any kind of domestic abuse are asked to participate in a survey - all information is confidential and anonymous. Anyone completing the survey will be able to download for free the Digital-Trust’s e-book entitled 'What is Coercive Control?’.

To take part in the survey go to

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